Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina wrapped up its preseason football camp on Saturday afternoon, holding its final scrimmage and the "Meet the Cats" fan fest at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. The Catamounts worked through just over 100 plays on a hot-and-humid afternoon on the artificial surface with nearly 1,000 fans in attendance.
Following the scrimmage -- the 20th practice session of the preseason for WCU and the final scheduled scrimmage -- the Catamount football team held a meet-and-greet autograph session on the West concourse of Whitmire Stadium. During and again after the scrimmage, many of WCU's other athletic teams, cheerleaders and members of the "Pride of the Mountains" marching band were on-hand interacting with the Catamount fans.
"We've got the greatest fans in the world -- and they deserve a winning football team. I've talked about that a lot with our players, and to have a fan fest and have this number of fans show-up is great. It was a great way to end our preseason camp -- just a great day for our program and our fans," said WCU head coach Mark Speir about Saturday's `Meet the Cats' fan fest.
Turning his attention to the scrimmage, Speir expressed his disappointment in some of the penalties that hurt the progress of the offensive unit, though he was quick to point out some of the positives seen on the field Saturday afternoon.
"I thought there were a lot of really good individual efforts today. We had a lot of guys injured and had to modify our scrimmage because of some injuries -- not long-term injuries, just ones to keep them out of today's practice," said Speir. "I thought we had a lot of dumb penalties, self-inflicted wounds. That stuff is unacceptable. You can't win a championship doing that."
Speir quickly looked ahead, adding, "Next week starts game-week preparations for Mars Hill -- we're two weeks out, but it'll start our routine. We'll take the next two days off from practice to get our bodies refreshed and healed up and get ready to go."
Senior quarterback Troy Mitchell completed 11-of-18 passes for 63 yards on Saturday, while also being credited with 23 yards on five carries while wearing the protected gold jersey. Sophomore QB Wes Holcombe finished 11-of-13 for 80 yards with a touchdown pass, while freshman Tyrie Adams finished 6-for-9 for 48 yards, adding 25 rushing yards on four carries. His classmate, Kalen Whitlow, also saw action on the day.
Redshirt freshman receiver Jordan Mathis was impressive, hauling in a team-high six receptions for 87 yards including a long 38-yard reception and a seven-yard scoring strike, the first offensive touchdown of the scrimmage. Junior WR William Ramsey caught four passes for 24 yards while C.J. Goodman made three receptions to finish among Saturday's leaders.
Also for the offense, senior RB Darius Ramsey recorded 37 total yards in limited touches, finishing with 18 rushing yards and four receptions for 19 yards. He added a six-yard touchdown rush during Saturday's festivities. Junior multi-purpose back Steffon Hill tallied 35 total yards including five rushes for 20 yards and two receptions. Hill broke through for what would have been the longest play of the scrimmage, slashing through the middle for 59-yard touchdown run. However, a penalty negated the play and the drive eventually stalled.
Senior defensive back Sertonuse Harris led the way with five tackles and a pass break-up, while linebackers Tyson Dickson and Kris Smith were also credited with five stops. Defensive lineman Fred Mooring had a strong scrimmage with four tackles including a sack. His teammates up front in Tommy Tate and Tahjai Watt combined on a sack, finishing with three and two tackles, respectively.
Other defensive highlights included redshirt sophomore DB Shawn Swain tallied four tackles with a pass break-up, while freshman Mikey White finished with four stops. In addition to Swain and Harris, junior Trey Morgan and senior A.J. McKoy were also credited with pass break-ups, combining for three tackles together. Other defenders credited with three stops included LB Mitchell Chancey, LB Coleman Cunningham, DB Jaleel Lorquet, DE Daniel Nash, DB Fred Payne, LB Daniel Riddle, LB Chris Seaborn, and DB D.J. Williams.
Western Carolina returns to its in-season practice schedule next week, taking both Sunday and Monday off from practice before returning to work on Tuesday afternoon. The Catamounts open the 2015 season by hosting mountain-foe, Mars Hill, on Saturday, Sept. 5 with a 7:00 pm kickoff.
Both season tickets and single-game football tickets for 2015 are on-sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office and online at CatamountSports.com. Fans are encouraged to be a part of a record-breaking fall and purchase season tickets by stopping by the first floor Ramsey Center Athletics Ticket Office, or by calling the WCU Ticket Office toll free at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401. Fans can also purchase tickets online at CatamountSports.com.
Important Upcoming Dates in Catamount Football:
Friday, Sept. 4 -- 11th Annual Bob Waters Memorial golf tournament in Maggie Valley, N.C.
Friday, Sept. 4 -- Catamount Football Season Ticket Holder pep rally at Tuck's Tap & Grille in Cullowhee
Saturday, Sept. 5 -- 2015 Catamount Football season-opener vs. Mars Hill in Cullowhee, N.C. (Post-game fireworks presented by Ingles, 99.9 Kiss Country and Star 104.3)